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Pope Francis gives sign of peace. One-Peter-Five
Phil Lawler

Opinion

The Maltese bishops lower the bar: Something lost in translation?

Phil Lawler

January 17, 2017 (catholicculture.org) – Here are some headlines that you haven’t seen recently:

Bishops of Malta: Mafia hitmen should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

Bishops of Malta: pedophiles should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

Bishops of Malta: IRA terrorists should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

Bishops of Malta: Wall Street embezzlers should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

And then here’s the headline you probably have seen:

Bishops of Malta: divorced/remarried should receive Communion if ‘at peace with God’

Thus have the Maltese bishops taken a commanding early lead in the rigorous-discernment-process (RDP) race.

As soon as you read the document, you could see that the RDP envisioned in the Kasper proposal,and mentioned in AL, would quickly become a rubber-stamp process. Cardinal Kasper himself finessed the question of what the RDP would entail, refusing to answer questions about how it would actually work. That finesse proving successful, Pope Francis followed suit.

When I was a child, there was a priest in our parish (his name was Burke, funnily enough) who could say the old Mass in 11 minutes: Sunday Mass, complete with sermon, in under 15. He was very popular with a lot of parishioners for that reason. The Maltese bishops are now doing the same thing for the RDP. You knew there would be priests who would be quick to give the green light; now they’re almost giving it pre-emptively. (“Yes, I’m divorced and remarried, but I went through an RDP during the Fritos commercial just before halftime, so I’m cleared for Communion this Sunday.)

Is there a term for the branch of theology that seeks to define the absolute minimum that is required for getting into heaven? The Soteriology of the Anchor Man? There’s big money in that field; it’s bound to be popular. If you stop and think about it, it’s hard to ‘accompany’ someone through a narrow gate.

The above article was originally published on Catholic Culture on January 14 and is re-published with permission. The following is a Jan. 17 update by Phil Lawler on the Maltese bishops' message on Amoris Laetitia.

The Maltese bishops’ message: something lost in translation?

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, answering critics of the Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Amoris Laetitia, insists that they did not say that divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion if they feel “at peace with God.” He has a point. The Maltese guidelines stipulate that divorced/remarried Catholics should go through a serious process of discernment before reaching any such decision. It is the discernment process, he argues, that is the essence of the pastoral program introduced by the papal document.

That’s what the bishops of Malta said. But what did the world hear them say? Unfortunately, their guidelines were generally interpreted as an invitation for divorced/remarried Catholics to make their own decisions. Still more unfortunately, that interpretation of their document was entirely predictable.

Last week I argued that a lazy or feckless priest will be tempted, under the new dispensation suggested by Amoris Laetitia, to wave divorced/remarried Catholics through to the Communion line, without any real examination of conscience. That goes double for the divorced/remarried people themselves. Not many lay Catholics read the fine print of bishops’ documents. They read the headlines, and the headlines say that they should go to Communion if they feel at peace. More often than not, I fear, the “discernment process” will end there.

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